Prior to invading the North during the Gettysburg campaign, General Robert E. Lee wrote to President Davis suggesting that the Confederacy reach out to the growing peace movement in the North. He emphasized that the Confederates should not shun the portion of the peace movement that wanted the Union restored peacefully. This letter of course demonstrates the grand strategy behind the incursion into Pennsylvania. Defeat the Army of the Potomac decisively north of the Potomac, and anti-war forces in the North would have received a shot in the arm. As it was, the Gettysburg campaign coincided with anti-draft riots in New York. If Gettysburg had been a Union defeat instead of a victory, I can easily imagine anti-draft riots spreading to other Northern cities.
Lee’s peace offensive in such circumstances may well have set in motion forces that would have overwhelmed Lincoln’s carrying on of the war, or made his re-election in 1864 an impossibility. Lee was a soldier of genius, but as this letter indicates, he also was very shrewd outside of the purely military realm. One wonders how the Confederacy would have fared if Lee, instead of Davis, had been President of the Confederacy . Lee’s letter of June 10, 1863 to Davis: (more…)